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The 2018 Genesis G80 Sport is a great car with the wrong name

Mack Hogan
CNBC reviews the 2018 Genesis G80 Sport, a luxury sedan with great value.

As we await the arrival of the Genesis brand's smaller sport sedan, the G70, the South Korean luxury marque has offered up a "Sport" edition of its midsize G80 luxury sedan.

Packing the same firepower as the Kia Stinger we reviewed and love , the G80 offers a more luxurious but less exciting driving experience. It won't outrun or out-carve sports sedans from BMW, Jaguar or Lexus, but its attractive price point makes it an interesting alternative. I just wished they hadn't named it the capital-"S" "Sport."


The Good

Genesis is a newly-independent luxury brand that grew out of Hyundai's first major luxury car, the Hyundai Genesis. Instilled in its DNA is a value proposition that's impossible to deny.

All G80 Sports are single-spec and filled with features that would be add-ins elsewhere in the industry. A premium audio system, Android Auto, CarPlay, heated and cooled seats, panoramic sunroof, lane keep assist, radar cruise control and parking sensors all around come equipped on every G80 Sport. Plus, you get a rear-wheel drive chassis and a 365-horsepower twin-turbo V6 to take the show on the road.

All in, this'll set you back $56,225.

That's a good chunk, but I'm afraid the craziness of that value may be lost on people. For reference, a bone-stock 540i — with no LED lights, no passive keyless entry, no heated or cooled seats and a full 30 fewer horsepower — starts at $58,750. That Genesis offers all of that and more at such a discount is truly jaw-dropping.


Inside the cockpit, it doesn't feel anything approaching cheap. It's not near the levels of Volvo or Mercedes these days, but the cabin is well-trimmed and full of genuine metal and leather. Unique to the sport trim is copper accents and seat piping that, as a contrast color for the black interior, looks fantastic. I'm hoping copper accents become mainstream.

They also make appearances on the exterior, framing the grille and accenting the wheels. That, combined with the sleek "Polar Ice" steel-blue paint make for a deadly combination. While a stock G80 in a drab color can border on generic, the sport trim accents and color matching help make the G80 Sport a positively handsome and borderline sinister slab of sheet metal.


For better or for worse, that doesn't quite relate to the driving experience. The most memorable thing about the G80 Sport is that it's a truly composed and highly compliant luxury cruiser. Power is always available in droves, with the slick eight-speed delivering it in a mature and sophisticated manner.

It can still do burnouts. Don't ask me how I know.


The Bad

You can tell the car doesn't really want to do burnouts.

Any time the G80 Sport is hustled, it lunges and rolls in ways that show it'd really rather not be participating in such tomfoolery. But you're the boss, so it obliges.

It's not sloppy or at all under-powered, it just doesn't have the sharpness and deftness of cars that take the "Sport" moniker more seriously. It can take a corner well and handling is precise, but it's not going to be telegraphing much information through the steering and it still bounces around like the massive luxury sedan it is.


I like to think of it more as a muscle car than a sports car. It's mostly for cruising and relaxing, but if you want to blast down an onramp or cannonball down a country road it'll wake up and make you laugh for a moment. It's a different kind of fun than other sports sedans, so those expecting a traditional experience are sure to be disappointed.

There also is the unfortunate reality of the Genesis brand in 2018: You're still going to have to explain it. When people ask me what I'm driving and I say a Genesis G80, I got one of two responses.

Either, "Oh, a Hyundai Genesis," or "what's the brand of the car?" I've now had three Genesis loans — two G90s of different spec, and this G80 — and have never mentioned it to a layperson without having to answer questions.

Value proposition aside, you'll never have to explain a 5 series.


The G80 you should buy

Genesis doesn't play games with the options sheet, so this is an easy call. Skip the base G80 and grab a sport; the power and styling transforms the car from anonymous to interesting. No more options necessary, you'll be cutting a check for $56,225.


Final Thoughts

There's an aura of quiet competence that surrounds the G80. It doesn't shout or dazzle, doesn't suffer from being over-styled or overly aggressive. It just provides a great luxury experience at a bargain price.

If you want the world's most exhilarating sports sedan experience, you won't get it here. The name promises feelings the car can't quite deliver.

But if you want a great car for cruising and commuting that happens to have the firepower and damping to have a little fun when the moment is right, the G80 Sport is an attractive and cheap way to do that.


Rating:

Exterior: 4

Interior: 3.5

Driving experience: 3

Value: 5

Overall: 4

Price as configured: $56,225


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